Equine Assisted Wellness

Equine Assisted Wellness

 Equine Assisted Wellness

  • What horses need to hear from us is what many of us would like to hear from ourselves, and each other. They need us to have a calm, focused assurance. They need us to be consistent. They need us to be assertive yet non-threatening. They need us to be both strong and compassionate. In short, horses need us to be our best selves. ¾ Chris Irwin,  Horses Don’t Lie

 

Addiction is a brain disease. The last decade has characterized an unprecedented watershed of research and advancing medical technology. As a result, we have been able to begin penetrating the mysteries of the brain.  The neuroscientific research has identified the neuropathology and neuroadaptive effects that together characterize the disease of addiction.

Findings have further identified that the disease of addiction begins as dysregulation of the hedonic system of the brain (e.g. the ability to perceive pleasure). This dysregulation has a direct effect on the individual ability to mediate stress.  Neuroadaptive changes affect the addict’s ability to properly perceive or experience pleasure while reducing the coping skills required to mediate the effects of stress. The disease progresses to a point where the ability to self-regulate and exercise will are deeply impaired.  Brain scans demonstrate that the executive control of the frontal cortex is compromised, and that the mid-brain begins dictating craving and choice.  In other words, the disease of addiction evolves to a point where it disables the ability to exercise choice.

Additionally, addiction affects the brain systems that regulate learning, memory, emotions and motivation.  In an addicted brain, these translate to what appears to maladaptive behavior.  The stigma associated with the disease of addiction is plagued with the false attributions of defective moral character and personality defects.  Although five decades of research argue the validity of these beliefs, many still treat addiction with moral contempt and imprisonment.

With the biological conditions that characterize the disease of addiction better understood, we are beginning to contextualize the initiation, persistence, and recovery processes of addiction.  The research underscores the nature of stress and its role in stress-response diseases, in this case, addiction.

Specific stressors, and the ways in which these stressors correlate with onset, maintenance and recovery, are largely unique to individuals.  Stress signatures take place within the context of meaning intrinsic to the individual.  Additional factors that play into stress include social context, social position, genetics, life experience and developmental stage.

Through the years, addiction has been treated using an acute care model, even though addiction is characterized as a “chronically relapsing disorder.”  Addiction is a chronic disease requiring a disease management approach that takes place over the course of a life time.  Like any chronic disease (e.g. diabetes), addiction requires an acute phase of treatment (e.g. medical detox and stabilization) during which patients are stabilized, physical healing takes place, and people have the opportunity to gather the tools they can use to manage the disease.  Treatment is typically residential and can last for a period of 30 to 90 days, depending on the individual.  This, however, is just the beginning.

Every component of recovery requires knowledge of the human condition characterized by a will to meaning and its link to wellness and/or disease.  Because the disease of addictions hijacks the healthy brain systems that would normally regulate behavior, meaning seeking and meaning making and lack of coping skills can challenge fulfillment. Equine-assisted wellness techniques provide an effective hedonic rehabilitation approach within a relational context that is easily transferable to other areas of life.  Experiential opportunities assist in healing and restoring a life of meaning.

Equine Assisted Personal Development provides those who are in recovery experience with horses designed to promote self-awareness and relational growth. The human-horse process teaches participants about themselves within a relational context, helps them become aware of behavioral patterns and to better understand the dynamics of healthy relationships.

Horses live in the here and now.  They live in a moment of judgment based on communication and relational trust.  They respond in the here and now based upon the way participants communicate with them. Horses help make participants aware of their emotional state because the horse responds to the way the participants is choosing “to be.” In working with the horses, participants gain insight into their feelings, behaviors and mixed messages.

Equine Assisted Personal Development occurs in individual and a group setting. Sessions are facilitated by a licensed professional and a trained equine-assisted horseman and life coach. The process involves establishing a relationship with a horse on the ground and evolves into nurturing that relationship.  Activities include joining up with the horse, grooming, lunging, Natural Horsemanship training and group exercises. The professional facilitators observe the interactions between the horse and the participant, and ask questions based on what is being revealed through the relationship. At the end of each session, participants have time to process the experience and consider the relevance within context of their lives.

 

Experiential learning teaches us that principles are just principles until we practice them into reality. Horses teach the dance of good communication. They are tough and steadfast partners. They don’t judge. They don’t forget. Their feedback is immediate and honest.

Experiential learning (Equine Assisted Personal Development / Learning) programs are founded on the belief that change must include direct experience in the processes of growth.  All change has some form of experience at base, but experiential learning demands that the learner be placed as close as possible to that base of origin. Experiential learning often requires problem solving, curiosity and inquiry.  It is sometimes loosely defined as “learning by doing combined with reflection.”  It is active rather than passive, requiring the learner to be self-motivated and responsible for learning and the “teacher” to be responsible to, and not for, the learner. Like experiential learning, Equine Assisted Personal Development focuses on placing clients in activities that challenge dysfunctional behaviors and reward functional change.

Horses have a unique capacity to influence people. Through the development of the person-horse bond, horsemanship instruction and equine care, people have the opportunity to participate in a transformative intrapersonal process. In order to benefit the person and the horse, the relationship requires constancy of attention, time in, responsiveness, assertiveness, communication and relationship skills.  Each of these components has been recognized as an active ingredient required for secure attachments.

We are often asked, “Why horses? Why not other animals?” Horses are large and powerful, so their size alone provides a natural opportunity to overcome fear and develop confidence. Accomplishing a task involving the horse creates confidence and provides opportunities to experience and formulate life metaphors that translate well when dealing with life’s other intimidating and challenging circumstances.

Horses are also like humans in that they are social animals. They have defined roles within their herds. They would rather be with their peers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes, and moods. An approach that seems to work with one horse does not necessarily work with another. At times, they can seem stubborn and defiant. They like to have fun. In other words, horses provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning. Using metaphors, in discussion or activity, is an effective technique when working with individuals or groups struggling to gain self-efficacy.

In an era when immediate gratification seems to be the norm, horses require people to be engaged both physically and mentally. Half measures and partial commitment fail completely. Maturity has been termed the capacity to be assigned a task, or assign a task to yourself, and see it through without being monitored. Equine Wellness is, at its essence, the maturing process between a person and a horse. Skills and attitudes acquired during this process are transferable and portable.

Most importantly, horses have the ability to mirror exactly what human body language tells them. The lesson to be learned is that if people change themselves, horses respond differently. Horses are honest, which makes them especially powerful mirrors into our own psyche, allowing them to serve as accurate messengers of self-knowledge. Horses immediately sense and respond to negative emotions and behaviors. This forces students to be accountable for their emotions, and to recognize the effects that their emotions and behaviors can have on others.

Unlike humans, horses have no hidden agenda or conflicting feelings. Horses do not respond positively to faulty forms of communication (such as manipulation, bullying, or passive/aggressive behavior) that many students have become accustomed to using. To be successful with a horse, controlled and effective body language is essential, which forces participants to be aware of their methods of communication and to problem solve when these methods don’t produce the desired results.

Horses also model the importance of fun. They require us to focus and to practice our theories. Horses teach the dance of good communication. What works one time may need adjustment; creativity and bravery are in needed to repair miscommunication. The horse instinctively mirrors what we need to see in ourselves by magnifying problem areas. Our work demonstrates compelling evidence that horses are masterful teachers in family dynamics, social rules, discipline, nurturing, respect and trust.

Teaching Horsemanship principles to students and having students teach the horses require us to focus and to practice the art of arts, our grand relationship principles. Principles are just principles, until we practice them into reality. Horses teach the dance of good communication. They are tough and steadfast partners. They don’t judge. They don’t forget. They don’t let you slide. Their feedback is immediate and honest to the core. Relationships with horses hold answers to us, relationships, intimacy, into me I see.

Experiential learning is predicated on the belief that change occurs when people are placed outside positions of comfort (e.g., homeostasis, acquiescence) and into states of dissonance.  In these states, participants are challenged by the adaptations necessary to reach equilibrium.  Several elements are inherent to this process.

 

  1.  The learner is a participant rather than a spectator in learning.
  2. Learning activities require personal motivation in the form of energy, involvement and responsibility.
  3. The learning activity is real and meaningful in terms of natural consequences.
  4.  Reflection is a critical element of the learning process.
  5. Learning must have present and future relevance for the learner and the society in which he/she is a member.

 

What the horse truly asks of us is that we be fully alive, awake and present.  To genuinely find the freedom that the horse symbolized takes hard work, determination, honesty, and self-awareness.  The reward is reclamation of the self, an enhanced life, and healthier relationships. – Johann Wolfgang Goethe   

Tribal Leaders Equine Wellness horsemanship why horse

RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HORSE…

  • Equine Assisted Wellness … The healing power of relationships
  • Cultural awareness … The healing power of belonging and pride
  • Family First program… The healing power of love

At-risk youth are looking to reclaim their lost relationships. They are calling forward their past, to find meaning, and importance, to feel belonging, to help gain confidence, and strength.

Equine Assisted Wellness:

Equine Assisted Wellness provides a metaphoric experience with horses to promote self-awareness and the principles of relational growth. The human-horse experiential process teaches participants about themselves in a relational context and helps them become more aware of behavioral patterns and better understand healthy relationships.

Horses live in the here-and-now.  They live in a moment of judgment based upon communication and relational trust.  They respond to the participants based upon how the participant communicates to the horse. The horse assists in making the participants aware of their emotional state as the horse responds to how the participants choose “to be.” Through working with the horse, participants gain insight into their feelings (e.g. fear, rejection, love), behaviors (e.g. control), and mixed messages.

The Process:

Equine Assisted Wellness occurs both in an individual and in a group setting. The process involves establishing a relationship, first with a horse on the ground and then evolving into the saddle. Activities in this process include ‘joining up’ with the horse, grooming, lunging, natural horsemanship training and group experiential exercises. As the individual progresses in responsibility and ability higher levels of riding and horsemanship are experienced.

 

What horses need to hear from us is what many of us would like to hear from ourselves, and each other. They need us to have a calm, focused assurance. They need us to be consistent. They need us to be assertive yet non-threatening. They need us to be both strong and compassionate. In short, horses need us to be our best selves.

Chris Irwin—Horses Don’t Lie

Leadership:

Establishing myself as the leader in order for my horse to feel safe and to accept me in our relationship, I must learn to convey a message of caring authority and also set boundaries that force me to become larger than I am and more powerful in my horses eyes.  I have to stand my ground and move with deliberation, always with assurance and calmness.  My authority is seen as nurturing to the horse.  Finding that authority nurtures me as well, building my self-esteem.  The more time we spend together the more I understand this role, and the more the horse trusts me.  I accept my fears as a part of life that I need to challenge with both reverence and respect with common sense.  I am learning to trust my own instincts concerning danger.  Through the horse, I have gleaned the freedom and independence to be courageous in the face of faltering. I am the leader I wish to be and have practiced the principles into reality.

Why Horsemanship?

 Teaching Horsemanship principles to students and having students teach/learn from the horses require us to focus and to practice the art of arts, our grand relationship principles. Principles are just principles, until we practice them into reality. Horses teach the dance of good communication. They are tough and steadfast partners. They don’t judge. They don’t forget. They don’t let you slide. Their feedback is immediate and honest to the core. Relationships with horses hold answers for me, relationships, intimacy, into me I see.

Experiential learning (Equine Assisted Wellness / Learning) programs are founded on the belief that learning or behavior change must focus on including direct experience in the process of growth.  All change has some form of experience as a base for its origin, but experiential learning asks that the learner be placed as close as possible to that base of origin because this process is often more valuable for the transmission of knowledge than other forms of learning.

Given this perspective, experiential learning often requires problem solving, curiosity, and inquiry of the learner.  It is sometimes loosely defined as “learning by doing combined with reflection.”  It is an active rather than passive process, requiring the learner to be self-motivated and responsible for learning and the “teacher” to be responsible to, and not for, the learner.

Experiential learning is also predicated on the belief that change occurs when people are placed outside their positions of comfort and into positions of dissonance.  In these states, participants are challenged by the adaptations necessary to reach equilibrium.  Reaching these self-directed states necessitates change with its resultant growth and learning.  Several elements inherent in this process include:

  1.  The learner is a participant rather than a spectator in learning.
  2. The learning activities require personal motivation in the form of energy, involvement, and responsibility.
  3. The learning activity is real and meaningful in terms of natural consequences for the learner.
  4.  Reflection is a critical element of the learning process.
  5. Learning must have present as well as future relevance for the learner and the society in which he/she is a member.

Like experiential learning, Equine Assisted Wellness focuses on placing clients in activities that challenge dysfunctional behaviors and reward functional change.

Why Horses?

Those of us who are familiar with equine wellness recognize and understand the unique capacity that horses possess to influence people in incredibly powerful ways. Through the development of the person-horse relationship, horsemanship instruction, and equine care, people can be afforded an opportunity to participate in a transformative intrapersonal process. The person-horse relationship requires a constancy of attention, time in, responsiveness, assertiveness, communication, and relationship skills if it is to be beneficial to both horse and person.  These attributes and skills have long been recognized as the active ingredients required in developing secure attachments. Horses, by way of their complexity, power, and size naturally provide by opportunities and challenges for individuals to acquire these skills.

 

We are often asked, “Why horses?” “Why not other animals?” Horses are large and powerful, their size alone provides a natural opportunity for all of us to overcome fear and develop confidence through the management and care of such large and complex animals. The size and power of the horse are naturally intimidating to many people. Accomplishing a task involving the horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides opportunities to experience and put a language to wonderful life metaphors that translate well when dealing with life’s other intimidating and challenging circumstances.
Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals. They have defined roles within their herds. They would rather be with their peers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes, and moods. An approach that seems to work with one horse, does not necessarily work with another. At times, they seem stubborn and defiant. They like to have fun. In other words, horses provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning. Using metaphors, in discussion or activity, is an effective technique when working with even the most challenging individuals or groups who are struggling to gain self-efficacy.

Horses require work, whether in caring for them or working with them. In an era when immediate gratification and the “easy way” seem to be the norm, and where entitlement seems commonplace, horses require people to be engaged both physically and mentally. Half measures and partial commitment fail completely. Maturity is said to be the capacity to be assigned a task, or assign a task to yourself, and see it through to completion without being monitored. Equine Wellness is, at its essence, the maturing process between a person and a horse. Skills and attitudes acquired during this process are transferable and portable.

Most importantly, horses have the ability to mirror exactly what human body language is telling them. Many people will complain, “The horse is stubborn. The horse doesn’t like me,” etc. But the lesson to be learned is that if they change themselves, the horses will respond differently. Horses are honest, which makes them especially powerful mirrors into our own psyche, as they become accurate messengers of self-knowledge. “Nature holds more wisdom than any university.  Horses teach us how to be human beings. We are always in a state of “being” and our being wither it is happy/sad, mean/glad is a choice… and is the mirror that the horse holds up for us to see!

Besides the innate power and healing energy that horses possess, interacting with them has other logical benefits. Horses are big, often intimidating animals. Because of this, interacting with a horse immediately challenges issues of fear and confidence in students. Horses are also incredibly responsive to human emotion and action. Horses will immediately sense and respond to a student’s negative emotions and behaviors. For example, a frustrated student can quickly cause his/her horse to become equally frustrated. This forces students to be accountable for their emotions, and to recognize the effects that their emotions and behaviors can have on others.

Another advantage of the horses is their honesty. Unlike humans, horses have no hidden agenda or conflicting feelings. Horses, therefore, never lie and do not hesitate to truthfully tell the student “how it is.” Horses also do not respond positively to the inaccurate/inappropriate forms of communication (such as manipulation, bullying, or passive/aggressive behavior) that students are accustomed to using. To successfully work/walk with a horse, controlled and effective body language is essential, forcing students to be aware of their methods of communication and to be able to problem solve when these methods aren’t producing the desired response.

Horses model the importance of fun. They require us to focus and to practice our grand theories. Horses teach the dance of good communication. What works one time, may need adjustment, creativity and bravery are in constant demand for repairing miscommunication. The ground exercises we use in our learning dramatize inner struggles and relationship issues. The horse instinctively mirrors what we need to see in ourselves by magnifying problem areas. Our work demonstrates that horses are masterful teachers in family dynamics, social rules, discipline, nurturing, respect and trust.

To teach a horse to be calm, responsive, trusting and brave, you must first acquire those qualities yourself. You can’t just appear to be confident and in control. You must let go of your masks and conflicts and fears and simply BE confident and in control. Everything we can teach a horse, we can teach ourselves. And you may discover that when a horse sees you relaxed, balanced and centered, so does everyone else. In and out of the horse arena.

Chris Irwin -”Horses Don’t Lie“

What lies behind us and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Powerful Horsemanship Quotes some Decades… some Century’s old.

  • For horses can educate through first hand, subjective, personal experiences, unlike human tutors, teachers and professors can ever do.  Horses can build character, not merely urge one to improve on it.  Horses forge the mind, the character, the emotions and inner lives of humans.  People can talk to one another about all these things and remain distanced and lonesome.  In partnership with a horse, one is seldom lacking for thought, emotion and inspiration.  One is always attended by a great companion.  Charles de Kunffy
  • Thou must learn the thoughts of the noble horse whom thou wouldst ride.  The horse is a wise animal.  Let him show you the best and most natural way to accomplish a desired end.   Johann Wolfgang Goethe. 
  • What the horse truly asks of us is that we be fully alive, awake and present.  To genuinely find the freedom that the horse symbolized takes hard work, determination, honesty, and self-awareness.  The reward is reclamation of the self, an enhanced life, and healthier relationships. Johann Wolfgang Goethe. 
  • Developing relationships and practicing horsemanship principles repeatedly I am asked to regroup, rethink, and to start fresh in accomplishing a task with a horse.  Will I ever master the art of horsemanship?  Perhaps horsemanship lies in the gift of patience, process and never-ending growth.  We will have our “blue ribbon” moments just as all of my efforts in life occasionally award me with accolades, but rewards also reside quietly in the journey.

RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HORSE…

The horse has the ability to heal relationships and in turn belonging, and has the ability to create confidence and self-esteem in the youth, therefore the youth’s ability to find meaning and purpose. This program milieu is the most powerful way to reach these youth.

Horsemanship Training

Indian symbols used on the Warhorse

The Indian warhorse was highly regarded by its American Indian owner, who often honored and protected his warhorse by painting tribal symbols on his body.

While the symbols used and their meanings varied from tribe to tribe, there were some common symbols that were widely used on the warhorse.

Each power symbol has its own specific meaning and the purpose for which it was used was determined by the nature of the dangerous job that the warhorse would be asked to do.

The warrior would decorate his horse with carefully chosen war symbols or power symbols which might be intended to give him protection, to indicate the troubles which lay ahead, or which spoke of the courageous heart of the war horse. Some symbols told of the horse’s affection for the warrior. In this article, you will find explanations of some symbols used to decorate their warhorses.

Download PDF of Indian symbols used on the Warhorse

Equine Assisted Wellness

Horsemanship principles & vocabulary

 

Horses require us to focus and to practice the art of arts, our grand relationship principles. Principles are just principles, until we practice them into reality. Horses teach the dance of good communication. They are tough and steadfast partners. They don’t judge. They don’t forget. They don’t let you slide. Their feedback is immediate and honest to the core. Relationships with them hold answers to our Selves. Intimacy…  Into me I see.

 

Relationship Principles and Vocabulary… it’s not about the horse!!

  • Safety rules everything!!!
  • Have fun… Make a game out of learning
  • We are humans – being, we are always in a state of being. We must be in tune with how we are choosing to be
  • Horses hold up a mirror to how we are being
  • Be a partner … not a predator…  predators push away… partners draw toward
  • To err is human, to blame the horse is even more human
  • Take the time it takes so it takes less time
  • When working with horses Fast is slow and slow is fast
  • Start a relationship develop a partnership = true unity
  • Have an attitude of justice; do as little as it takes to get the desired result, or as much as necessary.
  • Discipline + Love = Relationships = change
  • Reward the slightest try …
  • Easy Hard… or … Hard Easy… it’s your choice
  • Love, language and leadership = trust
  • Love, language and leadership vs. force, fear and intimidation
  • Horses are natural followers, IF we will be natural leaders
  • Put the dignity of the horse before the goal… put the principle first not the goal…
  • You are always developing a relationship with your horse, even from as far away as he can see you…
  • Make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy
  • When correcting, do it without getting mean or mad
  • Let it happen vs. make it happen
  • Be slow to a face…  never offend
  • No veiled messages, own your voice
  • Horses don’t lie … we must not either
  • The more you use your horses reigns the less he uses his brains … it’s the same with those we lead … the more we try to control them the more they stop using their brains
  • Your horse can only be as brave as you are
  • Build confidence through knowledge… you & horse!
  • Create a willing want to, rather than a grudging have to
  • Trust that your horse will respond but be ready to correct
  • Focus, feel and timing are the way your horse knows you care about him. When he know this, you will feel his power, life and spirit come alive  …
  • Feel of, feel for and feel together
  • The technique is not important … it is the principle and the respect that matters
  • Allow your horse time to think
  • Don’t get mad, get even, by taking a fresh start
  • Don’t break any promises to your horse, be consistent
  • Do it for the horse, not to him
  • Have hands that close slowly and open quickly, put pressure on slowly remove it quickly
  • Pressure and release is how we teach
  •  Horses need praise and recognition
  • Love, love ,love and you will feel it come back to you
  • Exaggerate to teach refine as you go
  • Pretty is as pretty does
  • Good better best … never let it rest … get your good, better and you’re better best!!!
  • Practice the principles into reality!!!

 

Choosing a life of Excellence…

Excellence defined: doing the very best you possibility can do in the situation you find yourself, with the information given. When you (not if you) make a mistake, define the situation, seek more information, make a new plan with positive principles and move forward… Repeat the process day after day… you will reach your goals

BIA REGIONAL MAP